Zero energy homes are some of the most energy efficient homes on the planet – and those certified by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program also improve its overall comfort, health, and durability. As more consumers learn about ZERH, they’ll begin to realize the major opportunity for substantially reduced energy bills and a potentially transformative living experience.
So What Exactly is a Zero Energy Ready Home?
In short, a DOE-certified ZERH is a high-performance home that is so energy efficient, most or all of its annual energy use can be offset with renewable energy. DOE works directly with leading builders who leverage proven best practices, such as those from the Building America program, that result in homes that are 40%-50% more efficient than the typical new home—even without solar or other on-site renewable power.
So how is this accomplished?
The answer lies in the program’s six core buildings blocks:
Every ZERH is built with higher levels of insulation, window performance, and air-tight construction than a typical home. As a result, these homes are designed to stand the test of time.
ZERH are built with comprehensive water protection to ensure water cannot enter roofs, walls, openings, and foundations. This reduces the possibility of mold or decay from trapped moisture that would normally evaporate in less efficient homes thanks to air leakage from windows, walls, or the roof.
ZERHs have advanced and high-efficient heating and cooling systems that result in even, and more comfortable, temperatures from room-to-room. That means no more drafty basements!
The appliances and components inside high-efficiency homes often consume more than half their total energy use. Every ZERH includes ENERGY STAR-certified equipment, fans, appliances, and lighting that can save money, and often work better and last longer.
Ensuring air quality is vital in energy efficient homes that are constructed air-tight. Every ZERH protects occupants from indoor air quality concerns while keeping drafts at bay. They minimize contaminants in construction materials, ensure plenty of fresh air inside the home to dilute any that make it into the home, and use advanced filters to remove dangerous particulates from heating and cooling system ducts (aka the “lungs” of the home).
ZERHs are built to ensure homeowners can readily add renewable resources to their property further dropping their energy bills. Typically these systems are added during construction, but for homeowners deciding to add a solar system a few years down the road, ZERHs are built from the start to minimize the disruption and cost of installing solar systems in the future.
What are the Financial Benefits of Zero Energy Ready Homes?
While a ZERH may typically be incrementally more expensive than a typical home, the savings on each month’s utility bill may actually be larger than the difference in the monthly mortgage!
When comparing two homes, make sure to consider the energy costs as a part of the overall cost of ownership—you might find that a ZERH offers a more comfortable home for a lower overall cost. That’s why it can be a very costly decision to just look at the sticker price of the home.